National environmental reporting has been in the news over recent months with the release of Environment Aotearoa, our second ever national State of the Environment report, and its subsequent review by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s (PCE). Environmental reporting matters and has many implications for how we all live day to day. We explore here why it is so important and how we can and should improve the description and evaluation of environmental trends in New Zealand.
Why environmental reporting matters
Practically speaking, the state of the environment has consequences for every individual. Air pollution and water pollution makes people sick and sometimes kills them (e.g. in 2012, 1000 people died prematurely in New Zealand as a result of air pollution). Excess sediment degrades marine ecosystems, making it pretty hard to catch a fish for dinner in some parts of the country. Excess nutrients and bacteria like E. coli in our rivers can mean you risk illness if you go there for a swim. We need to know how many of our aquifers are becoming polluted and where water is likely to become unfit to drink. Knowing what’s happening with our climate is also key to how we plan and develop our settlements and transport systems. We need to know how fast sea level is rising and where dwellings are likely to become uninhabitable in ten, twenty or fifty years. And of course pollution, the spread of pests and weeds and habitat destruction all impact on the plants and animals that call New Zealand home.
A solid and dependable system must tell us what we need to know when we need to know it, so changes can be made in time to avert bad outcomes and refine approaches to better deliver the good outcomes we want. Without this information we’ll find it very hard to hold our public agencies to account for their responsibilities of protecting the public interest in maintaining a healthy environment, and to hold private interests to account for any environmental damage they may cause.
Read more here: